Ever since I was a copywriter at Response Advertising, Kolkata, I was an avid watcher of films by Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak, Mrinal Sen and Tapan Sinha. Viewing their films I learnt a lot about the language of filmmaking. In my heart of hearts, I also desired to direct films one day.
My debut as a director was the Bengali family saga, 19th April (Unishe April). I was lucky enough to direct stalwarts like Aparna Sen, Deboshree Roy and Dipankar De in the film. When I received the National Award for Best Feature Film in 1995, I could not believe myself. The x-ray eyes of Chetan Anand who was the chairman of the National Awards jury did not fail to recognise my efforts. I was even happier that Deboshree Roy, a very competent actress, received her due also with the National Award.
Since then I have carried on directing films in which I strongly believe. Taking the cue from Satyajit Ray and Tapan Sinha I learnt the art of balancing reality, aesthetics and commerce whilst making films. My greatest challenge was to direct the grand Amitabh Bachchan in The Last Lear, an adoption of a play directed by late Utpal Dutt named Sesh Sahajahan.
While directing Jaya Bachchan and Naseeruddin Shah in my yet unreleased film Sunglass, I noticed how good method actors were. Both Jayadi and Naseerbhai are full-fledged method actors. Yet when the situations demanded they could be so spontaneous transcending all barriers of method.
My real regret is that I could not direct the nimble-footed Madhuri Dixit. She has the most beautiful smile, is highly photogenic and has a body language, which no other actress can match. We were almost on the verge of working together but destiny was not kind towards us. I shared a good rapport with Dimple Kapadia but never had a script in mind, which would do justice to her versatility.
I was really hurt when a senior icon like Dev Anand whom I highly admired was offended that I was remaking Guide. How on earth could I dare to remake a classic, which already set trends by the excellent direction of Vijay Anand? My film, which was supposed to have Akshay Kumar in the lead, was about the affair of a stuntman with an actress whom he saves in real life. I will carry on making films my own way and feel I am yet to deliver my best.
(As told to Ranjan Das Gupta)